One Note

In the night he played the organ of sorrows

whose vast pipes spanned continents

and whose music was time, the sea

in which he swam and dissolved

to become a wail sounding the deep

where beginning and end are one note


All At Once

The cat

licks her paw


to a Beethoven

piano sonata


then lowers her cheek

and goes to sleep


I sit and wrestle

with my strangeness


I am and am not

all at once


and the piano

keeps on playing

An Undeclared Mystic

Strange anything at all exists.


What is, is!


Profound tautology,

but I can’t find a curtain to pull

to let me see behind “is”


Wittgenstein snorts like an impatient horse,


“Haven’t you ever heard of getting snared in a language game?”


This is the form fashionable in the West

of what in Indo-Persian lore once was called a “tilism” *

a magical landscape that can pass for real and hold you

for a very long time, even your whole life.


A substantial part of the beam of my attention,

is always held in wonder that a pen can be, that I am,

that a green shirt can be, that light and robins can be…


I’m dazed by what other people take for granted.


I’m a child or a fool or both mixed up together.


The wonder of water and palm trees and the blue of sky


And dark and stars and the ever unrolling scroll of dreams.


I admit it: I’ve been lost all my life and this

is where I’ve lived and this is who I’ve been


An undeclared mystic




*See the “Adventures of Amir Hamza”

Bare Bones

too much to read,

much too much to read


I watch the leaves

falling from the trees


like words from the pages

of books the sun has written


I, too, am a book

that the sun has written


winter will be soon

and white and cold


I’ve lost track of what

I once may have known


I’m like that oak

becoming naked


I’ve lost track of most

of my questions


they’ve fallen from me

like leaves from a tree


I keep on reading

my way beyond me


I am the bare bones

of who I once was


Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

enantiomers of a single compound


the right handed version

and the left handed version


the same in chemical composition

but breaking light differently


Myself, I’m a racemic mixture,

Don and Sancho, inseparable

Words For Waves

Words For Waves



If I were to compose words for waves,

I’d wander the shore, mile after mile, month after month

year after year as I changed ages, letting

the sun set on me and the moon rise on me

sometimes a scimitar, sometimes a golden eye,

and the stars stick their fierce pins into the sky,

letting the sun rise pink again on my pink flesh


I’d wander the shore and let my feet

be familiar of the wear of sand and of rock,

listening, listening, listening, for I’m certain

that the waves have a language all their own,

a way of speaking and making themselves understood

and I have always aspired to be their translator.

the importer of their ancient virgin truth


I’d leave the clouds to others, even though cloud

and waves are intimately connected as both are water

I’d leave the land, too, its vast barrens, and strange hewn

grotesque overweening ranges of mountains all to others

I’d keep my feet walking, listening, listening, listening

for the hint of a word in the thunder rumble

of huge breakers minted on the open ocean


Or perhaps it would be the fan of surf spray

that betrayed a clue in a random moment, a first word

confident of what came after though yet without form

the waves are connected to the deep, to the hidden skin

of the earth that was once surface, perhaps, then dove deep

into a soothing darkness, an immense quiet, a place to wait

and keep on waiting for whatever might come next


But suppose, after all my walking, all my wandering,

all my wondering, that the language of the waves

does not yield to me: what’s the harm in that, I love

to walk and to wander and to wonder and to take wind

on my cheek as I go and feel the flecks of salt it holds.

suppose the waves keep their secrets and exult in them,

then what a quest I’ve had when at last I crash and break

In My Appointment Book

In my appointment book, in my own handwriting,
the obligatory medical illegible scrawl, a notation,
for 1:30 PM October 10, 2011, Columbus Day, only
I can not read it. I discern something like M__id___,
but can not attach a name to this awkward rune

At 1:30 PM October 10, 2011, Columbus Day, I wait
eagerly for help in deciphering my own scrawl
to arrive in the form of a particular patient, solution
in the flesh to the mystery I have made for myself,
but no one, no one at all comes and mystery deepens

It is an unknown no one who comes, who fails me
in unraveling the knot I have tied for myself, the “not”
with which I have filled this particular time slot.
In more than a quarter century of practice I’ve not
done the like, never invented such a loose end.

Old Maps

When I was six, open air book stalls along the banks
of the gray green Seine, sold old maps, exotic, all fake,
that fascinated me for whom they were the genuine
doorways to an imaginary geography, the presence
of other places much more interesting than here

My father tolerated the spell I was under with mixed
indulgence and disdain, he let me look and look
and look and ask questions – “What language is this?”
“Do ships still sail here?” Does this island still exist?
“Why not?” he would ask, puffing out white smoke

Despite many trips, despite my yearning for these
talismans of voyages, despite hours spent looking,
spent comparing, spent investigating, we never
bought one of these maps, which made them ever
more precious, lodged as they were deep in my mind

Not only much older now than I was then, but much
older now than my father was then, I hold it all
as something ordinary, imperfect, yet magical,
the way we were together then along the banks
of the gray green Seine, as I imagined myself

Your Mother

Your mother
whom you hardly knew

whether she withdrew just after your birth
or died before you were two or twenty

or forty or fifty-four or even sixty or more
she gave you so much of you

but was the origin of riddles
even if you know yourself as a riddle

your fingers can’t reach out and brush
who she was, what she meant, what she held

I know there are vast rivers of sentiment
that run in the other direction

celebrating unions however imperfect,
exalting mother and child together

I can’t help that I stand for the truth
of a lonelier life, one full of destinations

we never reach whether by the sea
or in the vast unsettling interior

Beyond Dreaming

I want to dream beyond dreaming,
to be convinced by worlds that exist only
inside me like pearl planets inside oysters of sleep
tethered to the flickering electrical reefs
that invent me both when I’m snoring and when I’m awake

who can dive for these pearl planets, bring oysters
back to the surface for examination, for interrogation,
so that they can be asked to state what they might know
about their circumstances, about my own circumstances,
how we’re all accidental, even if round and smooth?

the border of dream is not waking,
not a line of fence posts and barbed wire
or even wishing with all its exotic barbs,
the border of dream is hard to reach because
dream keeps springing up under all feet, five toed, poetic

nor is there any going back to the beginning,
when I dreamt I had arrived at origin, suddenly
a wild buffalo appeared and I had to run for my life,
humiliated that what I thought was an idyll was
instead something so other and in sleep that was mine

I want to get in my dreams beyond seeking approval,
beyond asking acceptance, even my own, beyond trying
to amount to someone, but just to float and glow like
tiny phosphorescent plankton awaiting the whale’s maw,
but without knowing that they are awaiting…

In my thinking about my dreaming, how it is satisfactory
and unsatisfactory, there is more than a hint of jazz,
of improvisation, of never putting my tongue in the same
stream of mind twice, even when I want to and when I try,
it’s no dream I’m always finding and losing myself, all ways

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